Jane Goodall(photo source)

By Contributor Lisa Corriveau

Jane Goodall is more or less a household name all around the world, famous for her decades of work with chimpanzees in Tanzania, as well as her conservation work around the world. I was lucky enough to see her speak when she came to Vancouver as part of the Unique Lives & Experiences speaker series in March.

Despite turning 80 April 3 of this year, Jane Goodall travels about 300 days per year, visiting 22 countries last year alone. She makes friends wherever she goes, so it wasn’t surprising when the Tsleil-Waututh people performed a special welcoming ceremony before her talk, draping a blanket over her shoulders and claiming her as one of their own.

Jane spoke eloquently but with a self-deprecating humour about her beginnings, attributing her path in life in no small part to her mother’s unwavering support of her ambitions to work with animals. The audience laughed along with her as she told us of hiding in the chicken coop to see how exactly hens laid eggs. Her talk was peppered with personal anecdotes and I left feeling like I got to know her a little bit.

In between the amusing personal stories like falling in love with Tarzan at ten years old, Jane stressed the connection between environmental conservation and human rights and international development work. She advocates for a bottom-up approach, beginning any campaign from the people in the area where there is an environmental concern. Another major takeaway that she stressed was that every person has the ability to effect change and even small actions can make a difference, when multiplied by many people.

Though she spoke of habitat destruction, poaching of endangered animals and environmental disasters worldwide, the tone of her talk was enduringly optimistic. Her positive outlook is based on four things: she believes in the power of young people to change the world; the extraordinary human brain, which has been the source of so much incredible innovation, like sending rockets to Mars; the resilience of nature, for which she gave several local examples like the Vancouver Island Marmot population rebounding with the help of a captive breeding population; and, the indomitable human spirit, which brought her talk full circle, back to the survival of the First Nations people who welcomed her to their ancestral lands at the beginning of her talk.

I feel very privileged to have been able to hear Jane Goodall speak in person and I look forward to watching what she accomplishes in her eighties. Happy birthday, Jane!

Disclosure: I received a free ticket to Jane Goodall’s talk to facilitate my review. No other compensation was provided and all views and opinions stated on this post are 100% my own.

Lisa Corriveau lives in East Vancouver with her husband, son & daughter in a 1940s bungalow. Spokesmama chronicles their life with two little kids, living car-free, getting around on bikes, walking, transit & with the occasional car share vehicle. Lisa also blogs about green living, parenting, DIY projects & she loves to share what’s going on in her neighbourhood.